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Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve

South Africa's top luxury safari lodges

From Kruger to KwaZulu-Natal

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11 October 2021 by Claire Benktander

Elephants grazing by your breakfast table, exclusive watering hole views, and open-air dining in the vast bush – we look at the very best luxury safari lodges in South Africa. South Africa’s impressive collection of luxury accommodation is designed to work perfectly in sync with its surrounds, taking exceptional hospitality, gourmet cuisine and beautiful comfort to one of the world’s most spectacular terrains.

Chitwa Chitwa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve 

Chitwa Chitwa is design-led luxury at its finest, located on one of the largest lakes in 65,000-hectare Sabi Sand Game Reserve, whose open borders with the Big Five’s poster child, Kruger National Park, mean Big Five game sightings are virtually guaranteed. Wonderfully lofty thatched rooms feel luxurious but never pretentious, and are paired perfectly with plunge pools and open-air showers for the ultimate in luxury outdoor living. A sprawling timber deck frames each suite, making for wonderful big game viewing around a drinking hole popular with wildlife. Lunch is a relaxed affair in a thatched lapa overlooking the lake, while dinner offers charming outdoor dining around a fire, where you’ll sit in an open air boma under the glittering sky. This private game reserve is one of the best places to view the Big Five, and between your dawn and dusk drives take the chance to shop hand-made African memorabilia, lounge on the sunset deck and indulge a variety of spa treatments. Stay here on our Twin Centre Kruger Safari, which includes spending three days exploring the incredible landscape and wildlife of the reserve.

Chitwa Chitwa Sabi Sand

Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve

Sanctuary Manyane Safari Lodge in the barren splendor of Madikwe Game Reserve is wilderness on a luxurious scale. Surrounded by 750 square kilometres of valleys and distant rocky peaks, and of course, rustles of the Big Five among its grasslands, this lodge is all about minimal environmental impact. Rooms overlook the Marico River and work in perfect harmony with the natural surrounds, constructed from local wood, thatch and stone. Walls are glass, showers are open-air, and private sun decks provide prime platforms for wildlife viewing. For a true back to nature experience, guests can take advantage of a sleeping deck above ground, where it’s just you, the open bush, and the delicate light of the surrounding lanterns. Dinners are always paired with an exceptional wine, fusing local and international fare using the freshest ingredients. Rise early for game drives where you’ll spot lion, rhino, giraffe, elephant and wildebeest. Aside from wildlife, the lodge has a spa and infinity pool, but its most unique offering comes in the form of its conservation efforts. It’s one of the lodge’s key goals, and guests are offered the chance to assist with local impoverished communities either practically or financially. Our Johannesburg, Madikwe and The Cape tour offers all these experiences with a two day stay where you'll discover local communities and track the Big Five.  

Sanctuary Makanyane Madikwe

Dulini River Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Dulini River Lodge is a contemporary living space where an elephant plodding past as you take a morning dip is not an unlikely scene. Located in the reserve of Sabi Sand which shares an unfenced border with the renowned Kruger National Park, this lodge offers the chance to get wonderfully close to wildlife. Under a leafy green canopy edged by the banks of the Sand River, this lodge combines off-the beaten track experiences with rustic luxury. The suites are opulent but still feel homely, featuring thatched roofs and wooden décor paired with elegant splashes of African-inspired fabrics. Locally sourced ingredients are the order of the day, creating a wonderfully diverse menu which guests can enjoy al fresco under the stars. The location means the daily drives and bush walks through the reserve almost guarantee a chance to see the Big Five. Our African Safari and Mozambique beach break combines exploring the reserve's wildlife with a relaxing stay on the Indian Ocean's stunning coastline. 

Dulini River Lodge Sabi Sand

Forest Lodge, Phinda Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal

South Africa’s easternmost tip is the home of Phinda, which offers the best Big Five safari in KwaZulu-Natal. The dense canopy of Forest Lodge means privacy is ensured, and rooms are perfectly designed to make the most of the rare sand forest terrain. The 16 eco-designed glass suites on stilts feature private verandas ensuring panoramic views, ideal for spotting wildlife and the 380 bird species that the reserve plays host to. Guests can enjoy a sociable dinner under the stars in an open air boma or on their own terrace. There’s even the option to eat out in the wild, where your dinner will be served in the bush with only the stars and the grazing wildlife for company. There are daily drives for guests at dusk and dawn to spot the abundance of wildlife that lies in the reserve, including cheetah, leopard, antelope, lion and rhino. This region is also home to home to seven unique ecosystems, perfect for exploring with the plethora of extra activities offered, including endangered wild cats projects and swimming with whale sharks. Stay in a lodge of matching luxury in the spectacular Phinda reserve on our KwaZulu-Natal Discovery Self-Drive where you'll enjoy bush picnics and game drives.

Forest Lodge Phinda

Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Sabi Sand plays host to many of South Africa’s luxury lodges, and as one of the world’s premier game reserves it’s easy to see why. This lodge overlooks an exclusive waterhole and is surrounded by vast open bush, with an African-chic aesthetic featuring rich, mahogany furniture and sweeping drapes. Dining here is an exquisite experience, with seasonal local ingredients and gamey flavours creating a refined and traditional menu, served in the open bush or accompanied by local singers by the boma fire. A twice-daily drive accompanied by expert guides will bring you into Kruger, tracking elephant, lion, rhino and more. More than just a base for safari, the lodge's waterhole is a wonderful area from which to observe the animals, and the pair of swimming pools, spa and lounge make for a wonderful relaxation period in between game tracking. 

Earth Lodge, Sabi Sabi Game Reserve

This spectacular environmentally friendly lodge creates a sanctuary that blends almost seamlessly with its environment. This is a hidden haven sculpted on a slope, providing a break from the traditional safari lodge. Soft lines, individually designed furniture, outdoor showers, glass-fronted bathrooms and private plunge pools make for a wonderful base from which to explore the surrounds. For ultimate indulgence, the Amber Suite features an egg-shaped bath and steam room. The spectacularly designed outdoor boma sculpted from tree roots is the home of a wonderful dining area, or guests can eat overlooking the waterhole, in the vast wine cellar or in the uninterrupted bushveld under the stars. The luxury spa can be enjoyed in between safaris which leave twice daily with a knowledgeable guide and tracker. Explore the enormous reserve for some of the country's best Big Five viewing with our Cape, Winelands & Kruger Safari.

Earth Lodge Sabi Sand

Singita Boulders Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

This is luxury at its absolute finest. This lodge is located in a privately owned game reserve, and combines minimalistic design with traditional earthy colours and fabrics. Guests have their own heated plunge pool, wraparound terraced decking, and indoor and outdoor showers in their lofty suite. Stunning African-influenced cuisine can be sampled on deck in open-air boma under the stars, complemented with a fine wine from Singita’s bush wine cellar. A twice-daily safari is offered, as well as bush walks, mountain biking through the plains, and indulgent spa treatments. 

Singita Boulders Lodge

Molori Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve

This secluded lodge is situated within the fifth largest reserve in the country on Botswana’s border, offering spectacular views of the Madikwe Valley and Dwarsberg Mountains. With just five suites, Molori offers unique open air living with luxurious touches interspersed throughout, creating lofty, intimate spaces. Floor to ceiling glass walls, fireplaces and an open-air shower ensure a seamless experience from indoor to outdoor, with the Ngwedi Suite offering a private deck, infinity pool, day beds, and a freestanding copper bath looking over the surrounding Madikwe bush. International chefs discuss that evening's meal at length with guests, always using organic fresh ingredients and offering guests the chance to dine in their own suites, on deck or out in the bush. Rhino tagging, wild dog expeditions, and tracking the Big Five are some of the activities on offer, and in between guests can visit the luxury spa and jacuzzi deck.

Molori Lodge Madikwe

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